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Consumer and Dealer Sentiment Study Finds COVID-19 Anxiety Ratcheting Up

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Article Highlights

  1. Anxiety is ratcheting up again for consumers and dealers as we see a surge in new cases across the country.
  2. The search for a better shopping process continues.
  3. Dealers with digital retailing are more confident about the long-term health of their business, but it’s not a silver bullet.

Cox Automotive is conducting ongoing research to understand the evolving impact of COVID-19 on U.S. consumers’ and dealers’ attitudes and behaviors. The COVID-19: Consumer and Automotive Dealer Impact Study addresses COVID-19 awareness, familiarity and level of concern, the impact on everyday behaviors and business operations, the impact on current auto shoppers and commuters as well as actions to mitigate any negative impact.

MOST RECENT HIGHLIGHTS

The surge in COVID-19 cases across the country is negatively impacting consumers and dealers. Almost half of the shoppers delaying their purchase described this as a “scary” time to buy a vehicle. For those delaying service, almost half say it’s because they’re just not driving as much as they used to. It adds up to create some anxiety for the average dealer. In the latest study findings, we see four main takeaways:

  1. Anxiety is ratcheting up again for consumers and dealers as we see a surge in new cases across the country. Consumer concern has risen significantly with 70% indicating they are extremely/very concerned, an increase from June levels. A decline in consumer miles traveled and ongoing financial uncertainty further complicate things and paint an uncertain picture for dealers in the short run.
  2. The search for a better shopping process continues. Many shoppers are still missing out on the experience they prefer, and a gap remains between their desire to move more steps of the process online and what dealers are offering. Even those buying during the COVID-19 outbreak have seen fewer steps happen online than they would have liked. While 43% of buyers during this time did more steps online than in the past, 71% want to do more of the purchase steps online compared to the last time they purchased a vehicle.
  3. Dealers with digital retailing are more confident about the long-term health of their business, but it’s not a silver bullet. Those dealers who are realizing greater efficiency are adapting their business to get the most out of their investment. The most-adopted digital retailing best practice is “change communication strategy with leads,” with 75% of dealers saying they are making changes like driving to a sale versus setting a dealership appointment.
  4. Although dealers have seen their sales and service businesses recover to an extent, it’s clear that some dealers won’t rush to resume prior staffing levels. Franchised and independent dealers display a different outlook on future staffing decisions. For example, nearly one third of franchised dealers expect to have a smaller operation in the future.

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